ODUAHGATE I: N255m car scandal; Oduah Guilty – Presidential Panel

Minister of aviation

The last may not have been heard of the N225m car scam in which the embattled Minister of Aviation has been embroiled in as the committee set up by President Goodluck Jonathan to probe the car scandal in the aviation ministry has indicted the Minister, Ms. Stella Oduah. It was gathered in Abuja on Sunday that the report of the presidential committee tallied with some findings of the House of Representatives  Committee  on Aviation on the scandal.

In October, there were reports that with the approval of the minister, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority purchased two bulletproof BMW cars at an allegedly inflated rate of N255m. The development sparked a countrywide outpouring of outrage with many Nigerians and groups calling for her sacking or resignation.

The House subsequently mandated its Committee on Aviation to probe the allegation against the minister. On December 19, 2013, the House of Reps endorsed the report of its committee and agreed that the minister breached the 2013 Appropriation Act.

It therefore asked Jonathan to review Oduah’s appointment for approving expenditure of over N643m for the NCAA to procure 54 vehicles last year. The spokesperson   for the House, Mr. Zackary Mohammed, had explained that the lawmakers wanted the minister sacked. He said, “The word ‘review’ here means a change in status. It is a mild way of saying that Mr. President should sack the minister.”

A major recommendation of the Aviation committee, which was adopted, reads, “The House urges the President to review the continued engagement of the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, for having contravened the Appropriation Act, 2013 and the approved, revised thresholds by exceeding the Ministry of Aviation’s approval limit of N100m by the purchase of 54 vehicles valued at N643m.”

Although Jonathan confirmed the receipt of the report of the presidential committee chaired by a former Head of Service of the Federation, Alhaji Sali Bello, he had yet to make a pronouncement on it.

Other members of the presidential panel included the National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki and Vice-Marshal Dick Iruenabhere.  It was learnt on Sunday that the   panel, like that of the House, also discovered that the minister’s approval for the cars exceeded the N100m limit.

A top government source, said that although the committee indicted Oduah, it did not say whether she should be sacked or not. But anonymous media sources claim that there was every probability that the President may use the cabinet shake-up that would follow the presentation of his ministerial list to the National Assembly to relieve himself of the moral burden of Oduah’s continued presence in his government.

One of the sources   said Jonathan did not take any action on the matter when the issue was raging last year because it was not in his character to be seen as being stampeded into taking any decision.